Brigitte Stoppel has been mountain biking for over thirty years and is passionate about helping others to get out on the trails, especially women. It would be fair to call her an expert, so we asked her to write down her top ten tips for starting out.
This is the second of a three-part blog series, by Brigitte. If you have not read Part One covering tips 1 – 4, read it here.
5. Venturing to the trails.
Always look a few metres ahead and not directly at the front tyre. The bike will go where your eyes are looking so keep focus on where you want to go!
Try to keep your hands loose, the stiffer they get, the more the body stiffens up.
Keep only one or two fingers on the brake levers, they are powerful, and doing so will give you more control.
Two widely used mountain bike sayings are “momentum is your friend” and “commit”. Accidents happen when brakes are pulled with force, and when one tries to back out of a commitment, so try to find a speed you are comfortable with.
6. Leave your ego at the carpark.
There is nothing wrong with getting off the bike and having a look at the obstacle ahead, discussing the line to take and having a go at it, if in your comfort zone.
Walk the trail first and take risks you are happy to take, one step at a time.
7. Join a local bike community.
It’s always good to have a buddy with you in the bush. Invest in a mountain bike guide or ask a knowledgeable rider to show you the trails so that you can familiarise yourself with local routes.
Try various groups out so that you meet people who ride at your level. Bike shops and mountain bike clubs often have club rides for beginners to advanced, plus you’ll find out about skills clinics, events and demo bike sessions.
8. Eat well and stay hydrated.
Nutrition is an important part of mountain biking. It’s essential to eat well and stay hydrated.
A 10km ride can end up being a 3-hour ride if the terrain is technical, so take plenty of water. I always carry some food with me and make sure I drink every 15-20 minutes topping up with electrolytes.
9. Stretch it out.
Glute, hamstring and core stretches are very important exercises to do before and after a ride to keep your back strong and to keep all muscles engaged. Stretching also helps you to avoid injury and recover more quickly.
10. In time, try different mountain bikes.
As you become more experienced, you may find that you like to mix things up by riding different bikes. I employ the above tips no matter what bike I’m riding.
It’s good to keep your skills up on various bikes because over the years, you’ll learn that one can never have enough bikes.
Keep your eye out for Part Three next week, which covers types of bikes, riding styles and mountain biking gear.